Some are calling Austyn Crites a “paid assassin for the left.” And worse.
The man who held up a “Republicans Against Trump” sign at a rally in Reno was tackled and detained after someone in the crowd said they noticed something in his waistband and yelled “gun!” And all hell broke loose.
BREAKING: Donald Trump Rushed off Stage by Secret Service During Rally in Reno, Nevada; Crowd Seen In Chaos pic.twitter.com/Z8AzWKL6YG
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) November 6, 2016
Trump was rushed off stage, Crites was tackled to the ground and briefly detained in a bathroom. He was eventually released when they discovered he had no gun.
Crites – who has since deleted his Facebook page, said he’s a Republican (and there’s evidence he’s been a Republican for at least four years), says he’s planning on voting for all Republicans except Donald Trump, who he says is dangerous.
For all those who think he’s either a plant from the left (he’d be a pretty bad one at that) or some sort of “paid assassin,” he’s a pretty bad one, since he entered the building and walked through the crowd with a “Republicans Against Trump” sign. Most folks looking to do harm to a political candidate don’t draw attention to themselves like that, do they?
Anyway, Crites, whose LinkedIn page is still up, says he’s an entrepreneur involved in “aerospace inflatable design and manufacturing.”
Outside the building, a reporter from The Guardian caught up with a shocked-looking Crites. He said he was a little banged up, but relatively uninjured. Here’s how he described what happened:
He confirmed witness descriptions of him moving through the crowd toward the front. However, he said he was not barging through but saying “Can I please come through, can I please come through.”
When he was near the front of the crowd, he said he silently held aloft his sign.
“I had a sign that said ‘Republicans against Trump’. It is a sign that you can just print off online.”
Initially, there was the expected reaction of people around him booing, he said. “And then all of a sudden people next to me are starting to get violent; they’re grabbing at my arm, trying to rip the sign out of my hand,” he said.
He said he could not be sure but “it looked like” Trump was pointing at him, and may have been “instigating something”. Either way, the crowd piled on him, he said, kicking, punching, holding him on the ground and grabbing his testicles.
He said he was a wrestler in his youth and used his training to turn his head to the side to maintain an airway open as he was being choked by one man who had him in a headlock. “But there were people wrenching on my neck they could have strangled me to death,” he added.
Crites said when he was on the ground he heard someone yell “something about a gun” and he kept telling those on top of him that he had merely been holding a sign.
He was unaware, until the Guardian told him, that Trump had been ushered from the stage amid the mayhem.
For his part, Crites said he felt relieved when police arrived and placed him in handcuffs, but said officers had to fend off Trump supporters who continued to attack him. “As I was taken from the room, people are just looking at me like I’m a demon,” he said.
He said he was taken to the back of the auditorium, searched, subjected to a background check and then swiftly released.
Several Trump supporters who witnessed the incident told the Guardian they saw a man wrestled to the ground and, after he was on the ground, heard shouts that he had a weapon, prompting panic.
One of those witnesses, a Trump supporter, said he had seen the protester holding a “Republicans against Trump” sign, and assumed it had been misidentified as a weapon.
Crites said he did not blame the crowd for his treatment:
“I like these people,” he said. “These are my fellow Americans. I love these people. I understand that they came here because they’re patriotic, they want to do good for their country.”
He added: “The people who attacked me – I’m not blaming them. I’m blaming Donald Trump’s hate rhetoric.”
“My heart still aches for what this nation could potentially do by electing him,” he added. “That hurts me much more than any of this violence.”
“The fact that I got beat up today, that’s just showing what he’s doing to his crowds. But I just want people to understand I’m going to be OK, but now what’s more important is if the country going to be OK? So do your part and vote.”